Two things to note of my childhood: my Dad is allergic to chocolate and dessert was often part of our family dinners. Baked peaches with cinnamon and raisins, pralines and cream ice cream, and molasses cookies seemed to be some of our staples. Molasses cookies quickly became a favorite and a specialty treat in our house. They were unique and different and kind of old fashioned, but I loved them…and so did my friends. No one else’s Mom made MOLASSES cookies. Molasses “cookies” have been around since the Colonial Era, in the days before refined sugar was an option and molasses was the most common sweetener. Although baking cakes was more common than cookies in those days. The “cookie” was actually an unintentional invention. Bakers would drop a little dollop of the cake mix on a pan and insert it into the wood burning oven to test if the oven was hot enough to start baking the cake. Little cakes –> “cookies.” A little historical trivia never hurt anyone.
Nonetheless, my Mom’s molasses cookies became fairly famous among my friends. They were and still are one of my Mom’s signature items and for good reason. They are sweet and savory and include all of the great spices of fall — cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. I made them for a family dinner the other night and as we were passing the cookie plate around the table we were discussing exactly why molasses cookies are just so good. I mentioned how I loved the saltiness paired with the intense sweetness of the molasses. Someone likened it to the flavor profile of salty caramel ice cream which then led to our realization that Jeni’s Ice Cream could really benefit from a Molasses cookie ice cream flavor in the autumn months. So Jeni, if you are out there….I’m available to help with this mission! These cookies are best served right out of the oven when they are still warm and soft and gooey. Enjoy!
The Best Molasses Cookies (Makes 2-3 dozen)
3/4 cup vegetable oil (can use melted butter)
1 cup sugar (plus extra in which to roll the cookie dough balls)
1/4 cup molasses (we prefer Brer Rabbit Blackstrap or Full Flavor)
2 cups sifted all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine dry ingredients (flour through ginger) in a large bowl and set aside. Using a large electric mixer, combine oil, sugar, molasses and egg and beat until well combined. (TIP: Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to measure your 3/4 cup of oil — then use that same cup to measure the 1/4 cup of molasses so that the molasses will release easily from the sides of the measuring cup. Alternatively, my Mom used to put the 1/4 cup in the freezer for a minutes before using it for the molasses). Slowly add dry ingredients until batter is well combined. If you have time, you can cover and chill the dough (if not, it will be fine). Put about 1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl. Form dough into 1 inch balls and roll in sugar to coat. Place on greased cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Bake at 375 degrees for 6-8 minutes. Do not over cook as they are much tastier when they are soft.